Jul 25, 2023 - Politics & Policy

DeSantis' small-dollar donation ratio ranks near bottom of GOP field

Data: FEC; Chart: Axios Visuals; Note: Small-dollar donations are $200 or less. Total contributed funds do not include donations from the candidates themselves.
Data: FEC; Chart: Axios Visuals; Note: Small-dollar donations are $200 or less. Total contributed funds do not include donations from the candidates themselves.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is lagging far behind former President Trump on a crucial metric for the longevity of a presidential campaign: small-dollar donations.

Why it matters: Donations of $200 or less are one of the clearest signals of grassroots enthusiasm behind a candidate. These donors are able to give more than once, while wealthy donors often max out on their contributions early in the campaign.

  • While the full picture of Trump's campaign finances isn't clear, his filings so far signal strong grassroots support.
  • The broader political world is grappling with a decline in the small donor dollars that drove recent cycles, Politico reports.

By the numbers: 82% of the total raised from individual contributions by Trump's campaign since the start of the year came from small-dollar donors — amounting to more than $44 million, according to FEC data.

  • DeSantis has brought in just 17% from small-dollar donors — while 71% has come from people donating $2,000 or more.
  • “Our campaign is grateful for the tens of thousands of grassroots supporters who have made it possible for us to build an unmatched organization in the early nominating states with the ability to compete for the long haul," DeSantis comms director Andrew Romeo told Axios.
  • Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, who has poured millions of his own money to fund his 2024 run, has made small-dollar support a priority of his fundraising, including by promising to give supporters a 10% cut of the total money they raise for his campaign. He's raised about $1.9 million in donations under $200.

The big picture: Democrats have long relied more heavily on small-dollar support than Republicans.

  • In 2020, almost twice as many people donated to Democrats compared to Republicans, according to a report out earlier this year from the Center for Campaign Innovation.

Between the lines: Biden's re-election campaign raised roughly $10 million during the second quarter from donors giving less than $200.

  • That's three times the amount brought in by DeSantis through small-dollar donors — but only a quarter of Trump's small-dollar haul.
  • Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who has launched a long-shot challenge to Biden on the Democratic side, has raised over $2 million from small-dollar donors.

Flashback: The 2020 presidential election saw high levels of grassroots support, with 48% of Trump's fundraising coming from small donors, according to Open Secrets.

  • 38% of Biden's total fundraising haul came from small donors during 2020, per the Open Secrets data.

What to watch: The Republican National Committee earlier this year rolled out new thresholds to qualify for presidential debates in an attempt to boost grassroots fundraising operations from candidates across the party.

  • Mimicking a Democratic strategy from 2020, the RNC requires that all candidates have at least 40,000 individual donors to qualify for the debate on Aug. 23.
  • This new requirement has led some outsider candidates to turn to novel approaches to boost their small-dollar bases, such as doling out $20 gift cards to voters who donate just $1 and a sweepstakes for free college tuition.

Go deeper: Charted: Senate cash cows

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